[Medal Chest] Using *real* wood.

*Note to my readers—this is the secret project I’ve mentioned a few times.  It has consumed my shop time since February.  That’s why it’s been so slow on the blog for the last few months.  Now that it has been delivered, I can post the details.*

My mother competes every year in multiple track meets for seniors, known collectively as the Senior Games (they’re broadcast on ESPN sometimes).  She’s been doing this for a few years and has amassed quite the collection of medals (dad takes stock of the medals in terms of weight not number, ie, when someone asks how many she has, he replies, “Oh, about 15 pounds”).  Yes, she is, was and always shall be a jock.  If I have any athletic ability at all it comes from her.

So!  For my first real project, I’m building a little chest for my mom to keep and display (at least some of) her medals.  The sides will be made of walnut and the front and back and top will be maple.  I had originally planned to make it with butt joints pegged, ala Peter Follansbee, but decided to be adventurous and try my hand at dovetailing.  I’ve been looking for an excuse to learn this mystical art and now’s the time.  So stick around and watch me throw my proverbial hat over the wall and force myself to figure out how to go get it.

Here are the plans that I came up with:mom medal box

Overall dimensions are going to be around 11″ deep, 18″ long and 8″ high (10″ if you count the lid).  Speaking of the lid, I’m going to make it curved, using angled staves as if I were coopering a barrel (or at least part of it).  To make give the chest just enough of a curved lid to make it look and appear like a treasure chest (it is going to house a lot of gold “coins”) but still remain feminine, I plan to make it a very slight curve, no higher than 2″.

Am I nervous?  You bet.  All told, there’s about $150 worth of material ($90 just in the maple and walnut alone!!!), there’s a new technique that I have to practice and put to use (dovetailing), there’s a new style (curved lid), then I plan to line the interior with not one but 2 colors of felt to match her alma mater (FSU) and have two removable sliding trays, there’s the fact that it’s for my mom, and I’m going to make some kind of decorative carving to give it a little bling, and I’m putting it all out here on the internet to be critiqued and observed…yeah, I’m a bit nervous.

I still can’t get over paying nearly $100 for two planks of wood.  Granted, it’s pretty cool—I got an 8 foot 1″ x 8″ plank of soft maple with a nice grain pattern and a piece of walnut that’s 1″x 4″x 48″ that has really neat grain.

One last thing…if you’re reading this, then the project is already complete.  See, it’s a combination birthday/Mother’s day gift for her, so I’ve been writing this and keeping it secret.  Now that it’s done, I’m posting the progress so you can see what went into making it.

Am I (was I) overly ambitious?  Well, you’re about to find out.


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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